"Hypertext" films?

Here’s the deal: I’m trying to come up with a film that I can show to my students that relates to the idea of hypertext. Think about Syriana or Crash, where multiple characters and multiple stories are told to create a unified narrative. Not to be a wimp, but I’m not entirely comfortable showing either of these films in class (one with a torture scene and the other with language/sex issues). Can anybody think of other examples of similar films with a looser narrative structure? Thanks in advance.

In my experience any teacher showing his kids something their parents would deem inappropriate immediately becomes everyone’s favorite.

Run Lola Run (more)

I’d much rather skip the controversy and focus on the content. Face it: if I showed Crash, the students would be talking about the invasive cop scene rather than the fact that it wonderfully ties together different threads into one cohesive whole. Likewise with Clooney’s fingernails being torn out in Syriana, no matter how well that film deals with the issue of postcolonialism from multiple perspectives.

Alan, is your primary intent to illustrate the concept of what hypertext actually is through film or to expose your students to the type of narrative technique you’re describing (the actual term escapes me at the moment)? That will help guide the movie recommendations we can make for you.

Well, if you want to tackle an easy subject like rape, just go with Rashomon! Memento is a great example of a splintered narrative, and it’s bound up tightly in the storytelling and main character.

But it sounds like you just want some sort of Altman-esque story. Short Cuts seems to fit the bill, but you might offend any Raymond Carver fans in the class. Maybe one of John Sayles’ movies? Matewan and Lone Star are great examples. Or Limbo, which is like a hypertext movie that ends in a 404 error. :)


The Machine is Us/ing Us

Which totally has the rape!

That is pretty damn great.

Rashomon’s probably your best bet. Although students may scream about having to read (read!!!) a movie. But that’s good for them!

Run Lola Run is fun, but doesn’t seem all that hypertexty. A good film if you want to show a cinematic parallel to plugging what-if values into a spreadsheet and seeing how the answers change, though.

A lot of the hyperlink cinema I think is good is probably something you might be wary of showing your kids. So Rashomon is probably your best bet as well.

Others though include.

Traffic (Drugs!!!)
City of God (Drugs and violence!!)
Babel (nudity)
21 grams (heavily depressive)
Magnolia (It’s PT anderson, will your kids understand it?)

and whatever Tom has mentioned.

Ryan, as far as I know, it’s impossible to show “hypertext” in a linear media form such as film. Hypertext is about creative reading, where the reader participates in the creation of a story with the pieces left by the author. I’m not concerned about my students needing to read subtitles, given that 90% of the class come from Asian backgrounds (none, unfortunately, Japanese).

Rashomon looks like a good bet. I’m actually teaching “In a Grove,” the short story upon which “Rashomon” is based, so I’d like to see it anyway. On the other hand, there’s the issue of how graphic the movie is – I’ll have to see it. Same with Lone Star. The other one I was thinking about was Sliding Doors: it’s “hypertext” in the sense that it illustrates one fork and parallel stories, but that’s about it.

Any other thoughts? Aside from what’s appropriate for a grade 12 class, I’m enjoying the suggestions myself.

Jesus guys, he has a problem with showing Crash in class because of the material and you are throwing him Traffic and Short Cuts?

How about 13 Conversations about One Thing? It’s got some swearing in it, though. If not, then yeah, Matewan is good.

American Splendor isn’t a Rashomon clone but it might be of use to you.

Put on a beret, show them The Red Balloon, and ask them to write an essay about how what they just saw is or is not hypertext. Make the “is” essayists eat their papers.

In all seriousness, this sounds like pretty heady stuff for seniors in high school, unless it’s a particularly motivated and gifted group of kids. Bravo for you.

If you like that, you’re going to love this: the film bit is the fun part, as there’s going to be a bunch of kids gone next week because they’re writing some math competition. Right now, they’re creating “hoopertext” stories. That is, analog models of hypertext stories using hula hoops, index cards, string, and tape. Hooray for not sitting in desks and taking notes, which is what I did in high school English.

I’ll look into American Splendor and Matewan too.

Timecode. Split screen, four stories that overlap.

Your attention is focused by sound, so one of the four screens is prominent (and sometimes not much is happening in the others), but the sound is on in all four, and you have the choice of watching the other screens.

It was filmed continuously, so for 11 days, they did the entire two hour movie each day. The script was partially improvised, with plot points given to the actors to “hit” and an event halfway through (earthquake) that allowed all the cameras and storylines to sync up. The making of the film is as interesting as the film itself.

And the DVD even includes a version where you can do your own sound mixing, so you can focus the audience’s attention as you wish. The first couple of times it was shown the director, Mike Figgis, was doing the sound mixing on the fly (really just four sliders, but you get the idea).

It’s probably the best implementation of a “hypertext movie” because two people sitting next to each other can notice different things and have different experiences at the same showing.

Um, I think the explicit hot lesbian sex in Timecode might make it a questionable choice for a high school class. But otherwise, very good call, Dean!

Also, dude, spoiler!


i have no idea if any of these match what you’re asking.

So the bottomless scene in Short Cuts would be better?

Besides, the hot heterosexual sex behind the movie screen was much hotter (in Timecode). In neither case do Julianne Moore’s pubes make an appearance.

But yeah, Alan, Timecode is rated R.

Oh yeah, how about Tristram Shandy? That’s the movie about making a movie of an unfilmable book. There’s bawdiness, but it’s 18th century bawdiness, which almost makes it respectable.